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Wednesday, 22 July 2020

‘The Ears of a Cat’ by Roderick Hart’


Published by Matador,
28 November 2019.
ISBN: 978-1-838591-44-1 (PB)

When a disparate group of individuals from the charitable foundation Future World decides the human population is putting our planet in peril, their solution to the problem is decidedly radical.  They resolve to kill as many people as possible.  Given the pandemic we are currently living through their chosen method may sound a tad familiar. They plan to unleash a lethal virus, H7N9, for which there is no vaccine available on the innocent and unsuspecting public.  To give credit where credit is due, they considered - and dismissed - other methods of elimination but were restricted by a wish to avoid killing animals or plants. It’s just humans they want rid of. Bearing in mind that Future World is dedicated to the identification and reduction of man-made catastrophes, they really are a most considerate lot. 

The leading lights in this conspiracy are three well-educated young women.  Catherine Cooper, half-German/half-English, is an academic specializing in population geography, Cindy Horvath is a beautiful Hungarian and Gina Saito is Japanese. Apart from the fate of the world, Saito seems to care only for her neon tetras.  The girls are aided by a miscellaneous collection of “helper” men whose motives are not always focused on the task in hand. As they operate only on a need to know basis and often know very little, this is not that surprising.  They are, of course, fully expendable.

Whilst the girls are busily travelling around meeting each other and the “helpers” in cafes and airports around the United States and Europe, security agents from Germany, Hungary and the States are busy watching them and trying to unravel what is going on. Dieter Klein heads the German security agency whose minions, particularly Ursula Lang, are following the girls’ activities and their connectivity to Gudrun Gronefeld who works in a lab working on the genetic manipulation of dangerous viruses. Adabert Pearson from the US is more “hands on” than his European counterparts.  He bugs apartments and connects their computers to his own setup.  He learns much this way, especially as Catherine Cooper, who lives on her own, has the habit of chewing things over with her cat, Schnucki.

Dieter Klien is fed up with his job and decides he would prefer to be a fulltime musician, or better still a composer even though he has no expertise or talents in either of these disciplines.  He angles - via a gullible psychologist – to be retired early and is replaced by Ursula Lang. Ursula knits continuously, takes the security of her country seriously and cooperates with her counterparts from other agencies.  Her methods are unorthodox but cumulatively she and her fellow investigators get results.

The Ears of the Cat is an unusual tale in which the leading characters seem to believe in the importance of their mission and to be prepared to die for their cause. Roderick Hart has a wry sense of humour, an intriguing way with words and a deceptively relaxed style of writing.  Although I assume, he doesn’t expect us to take the book too seriously, he still finishes it on a horribly somber note. If you can manage the topic in these difficult times, there is plenty of entertainment to be found within its covers.
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Reviewer: Angela Crowther

Roderick Hart grew up in Fife, was educated in St Andrews and Glasgow and completed an MA in English Language and Literature at Aberdeen University. He has published poetry in anthologies of Scottish verse, made bubble gum in Pennsylvania, studied folk music in Afghanistan, and worked for many years in a recording studio training student in scripting, recording, editing, and studio operations. An active member of a BPD support group (Borderline Personality Disorder) he has learned the hard way the strain this condition puts not only on the person with the disorder, but on relatives and friends as well. He has two children and currently lives with his wife and cat in an old farmhouse on the outskirts of Edinburgh.
  
Angela Crowther is a retired scientist.  She has published many scientific papers but, as yet, no crime fiction.  In her spare time Angela belongs to a Handbell Ringing group, goes country dancing and enjoys listening to music, particularly the operas of Verdi and Wagner.

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